Thursday, January 22, 2009

Scobey and Clancy Raid the Juke Box (1958)

One of my many early jazz heroes was the trumpeter and bandleader Bob Scobey (1916-63). Bob was one of the leading figures in the traditional jazz revival of the 1940s. His work with Lu Watters' Yerba Buena Jazz Band of California and his own bands consisted of some of the finest examples of this great art form.

Bob was born in Tucumcari, New Mexico on December 9, 1916. His family settled in Stockton, Calif. He learned cornet in grade school and also had a strong interest in chemistry. For a time he thought of a career in science. After high school he played in radio and dance bands in the Bay area.

Bob first joined Lu Watters in 1938 when Lu was leading a conventional dance band. By 1940 Lu had changed over to the Yerba Buena band and the sound of 1920s jazz. Lu, Bob and trombonist Turk Murphy made up one of the most powerful and exciting brass teams in trad jazz. The YBJB brought back much of the great jazz repertoire of the 20s and earlier. As exciting as the band was, they could be very heavy sounding and did not have an easy swing. Bob had spent the war years of 1942-6 playing in a service band around the Bay area. When Bob started his own group in 1949, Alexander's Jazz Band, then the Frisco Jazz Band, he made a swinging, danceable rhythm a priority.

His percussive, booting horn was a perfect lead instrument for his brand of trad jazz and dixie. Like Louis Bob knew how to put a lot of feeling into a modicum of notes. What he lacked in technique, he more than made up for in swing and passion. He was also a sensitive ballad and blues player. Bob's big, throaty sound also reminded one of the great Bunny Berigan.

Bob's merging with singer and banjoist Clancy Hayes (a former YBJB member) was the perfect partnership. Clancy's mellow, easygoing vocals, always sung with great swing and feeling, were a perfect fit for Bob and the band. Clancy knew just about every trad jazz,
vaudeville and folk song, verse and all. He was a consummate entertainer. The band got better and better and more successful with each passing year. They made many great Good Time Jazz albums. This one is a personal favorite of mine.

By 1958 the Scobey band had made Chicago their home base, playing many engagements in the Windy City and Midwest.

Scobey and Clancy Raid the Juke Box is a collection of pop favorites from 1957, sort of a dixieland Hit Parade. As it turned out, two tunes were revivals from the trad jazz repertoire (Yellow Dog Blues and See See Rider).

Along with Bob and Clancy was Pud Brown on clarinet, a popular West Coast reed man, well known for his work with Pete Daily and Kid Ory. He had a great, reedy sound and could get dirty when needed. He played a mean tenor sax, too. Jack Buck, Bob's trombone man since '49 (also a fine pianist) is joined by Doug Skinner for a trombone duo. Bob went with this setup for a few years. On piano is the great Stan Wrightsman, a very busy studio man in Hollywood. Stan had that nice Jess Stacy type approach to piano and had stints with Wingy Manone, Spike Jones, Matty Matlock and Bob Crosby. His solos are a highlight of the album. On tuba and string bass is Bob Short, one of the finest West Coast trad bassists. Bob was a mainstay with Turk Murphy, Lu Watters and the Castle Jazz Band, among others. Dave Black on drums joined Bob in 1956 and stayed to the end. He was a brilliant, swinging player and played with Duke Ellington before joining the Frisco Jazz Band.

Here's our playlist:

Bye Bye Love

The Everly Bros. hit gets a nice Frisco Band ride with the two trombones simulating the brothers and Pud getting in some nice low-register clarinet. Bob boots the whole production along nicely.

Singing the Blues

Not the Bix classic, but a Guy Mitchell charter of '57. This is a perfect vehicle for Clancy's easy-going style with a nice ratio of Bob's percussive horn. Dig Bob's funky fills behind Clancy. They will be many more coming up.

Yellow Dog Blues

New Orleans clarinetist Joe Darensbourg had a surprise hit with this revival of the W.C. Handy classic. Pud gives Joe a respectful nod and Clancy sings all the verses before Bob drives the band home.


One of my all time favorite Scobey solos. This was a hit for Debbie Reynolds from her movie of the same name. Following Stan's pretty intro, Bob shows that uncanny ability to "sing" the melody with so much feeling that it touches you deeply. Pud noodles for a half-chorus with nice fills by Stan before Bob closes out this lovely reading.

These albums were made for dancing and this is a perfect slow one for you and your girl.

Round and Round

A Perry Como hit gets a nice Scobey bounce with some neat rounds by the horns. Clancy's peppy vocal and a swinging out chorus are highlights.

All Shook Up

The King, Elvis, gets a Frisco salute. Clancy sings his own take on the King's lyrics with Bob and the boys playing the Jordanaires. Things get swinging in the second chorus with Stan adding some nice boogie woogie. This is my kind of rock and roll.

Love Letters in the Sand

Another revival of an earlier hit, this time by Pat Boone. Bob gives us the rarely heard verse, then swings us along with Clancy vocalizing, some Pud clarinet and a vocal reprise with Bob riding the band home.


Originally a calypso by Terry Gillykson, this clever arrangement transforms the melody into the Maryland, My Maryland / March of the Bob Cats theme. Dave Black's great drumming and the two bones give us that parade feel. Bob's horn swings the parade and as the liner notes stated, this could be dubbed Marianne, my Marianne. One of Bob's most clever arrangements.

See See Rider

Ma Rainey's classic blues was revived in 1957 by Chuck Willis of the "stroll" dance craze. Clancy sings the verse and familiar chorus with Bob and the boys swinging over an R&B beat.

So Rare

Another revival of a 1930s hit, Jimmy Dorsey brought this great tune back but passed on while it hit the charts. We get another tasty verse by Bob followed by a tender reading of the chorus with Stan doing some pretty piano. Another great Scobey showcase and dance tempo.

Blueberry Hill

Originally a 1940 Gene Autry hit Fats Domino had the biggie in 1957. We all loved Louis' own hit version from '49. Bob belts out the lead with more of that R&B rhythm and Clancy gives us a mellow vocal, before Bob takes us home.

Don't Forbid Me

This was another Pat Boone hit and gets a swinging Scobey instrumental version. More nice Wrightsman piano, the two bones and Pud, before Bob marches us home.

All of Bob's Good Time Jazz albums have that perfect combination of swing, bounce and passion within the framework of traditional jazz. In 1957 he moved over to RCA for more great albums including a tremendous pairing with Bing Crosby, Bing with a Beat. We''ll cover that one on a future post. (It's available on CD).

Bob left us too early in 1963 after bravely battling cancer. He was only 46 years old. The Good Time Jazz sides were reissued on CD by Fantasy, but I understand they have been cut out. You can try ebay or the used section of a good disc store. George Buck issued Bob's Ragtime sessions from 1956 on his Jazzology label. You could also drop a line to Bob's widow, Jan, at Jan, a lovely singer, kept Bob's band going in the 60s and even learned to play his Martin trumpet. I'm sure she still has some of Bob's material available.

I can't think of a better tribute than to note that Bob's lovely recording of Strange Blues (GTJ L 12006) has been the closing theme of Ray Smith's wonderful PBS radio series, The Jazz Decades
for over 50 years!

As long as there is an audience for good, swinging traditional jazz, we'll still be hearing Bob's great horn and band!

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